One of the things that my wife and I used to do* for entertainment when we were dating and when we were first married was to go to the local Hallmark store and peruse the cards for the funniest ones. It was a great free date.
A particular card really seemed to stick with us. It was one of a man and woman looking at some sort of peninsula looking deal and discussing what that thing was called. The husband very self-assuredly said, “It’s a stick-out”. The point of the card—can’t remember if it was a get well card or what—was that men give answers even when they don’t really have one. We’ll just take a stab at something, say it with authority, and then argue it to the death all the while knowing we don’t have a clue what the real answer is.
I was reminded of that card when I read through Jared Wilson’s excellent post on the importance of the pastoral “I don’t know”. There are four reasons that Jared gives for simply saying “I don’t know” instead of saying, “It’s a stick-out”.
- Because it’s the truth
- Because it impresses the right people
- Because it trains others not to be know-it-alls
- Because it cultivates humility
I’d like to add a fifth that is actually very similar to Jared’s #2. Here’s my fifth one, Say you don’t know because it gives you more credibility when you actually do know the answer. If I’m simply throwing out good guesses I might get it correct a few times. I also might totally blow it a few times. Eventually people are going to discover that I’m just shooting from the hip. Then, when I go to actually give advice or speak from something I know I will have already lost my credibility.
So pastors (and really everybody) if you don’t know the answer to something just say that you don’t know. Don’t just call it a stick-out.
*We might put this date back in our repertoire once our daughter is a little older and would look at the cards instead of chew on them.